Miserable Teaching with 20 boys & the Toothless Wonder

20 boys and the toothless wonder. story of my first week of teaching

***This post is part of the Real Army Wives series, which runs every Monday on storiesofourboys.com. For last week’s chapter click here.***

Sunday, Aug. 17, 2003

Oh, Alan,

I missed you the MOST today!

We had “Back to School” night, where we meet the parents. Everything was fine except instead of 22, I now have 25, and also this grandparent with two children in my class stayed after and basically threatened me.

Yeah. This ignorant, toothless wonder, with a strong cigarette odor about her, told me, in a menacing tone, that her kids will break all my rules, and if I get on to them too much or hurt their feelings, she will come down to the school and yell at me, and she assured me she will yell so loudly that everyone will hear. (Yes, I only wish I were kidding.)

Well, I didn’t say anything in response to that. I dryly and quietly said, “Well, hopefully we won’t have any problems. Did you see their homework folders?”

I drove away from school bawling, not just because of that one parent, but also from so many emotions. After coming home and talking to both of our mothers on the phone, I started feeling better. Then I actually got a lot of work done.

But I’m so exhausted, and I have to get up at 5:30 tomorrow. It’s 11 already, so I’m going to bed. I wish you could give me a massage tonight! I need you! I love you.

Love, April

 

Tues., Aug. 19, 2003

Alan,

Hey! This was the 2nd day of school, and I survived! It wasn’t even torture! It was fine. Yay!!!

I’m so exhausted though.

Today was SO much better. The administration has just been incredibly supportive. I had my kids write about their first day of school today, and that was very interesting. They thought they just had a fun day of school. No one said that I had no idea what I was doing or anything.

But Alan, out of 25 students, I have 20 BOYS!

I wonder if God is preparing me to have lots of sons! Oh, dear! But you know what? Out of 20 boys & 5 girls, I have already seen THREE kids cry, and they were ALL boys.

Andrew cried because he’s just whiny. Michael cried because he didn’t have his breakfast money..Oh!.. Make that 4! Chris cried because he didn’t know if he was supposed to ride the bus or not, and Matthew cried because I gave him a “warning.”

The student that really breaks my heart is my reading L.D. student, Tyler, who sits quietly in my class everyday and when asked what he wants to learn this year, he will tell you the same answer every time:

“I want to learn how to read.”

He tries so hard. Oh, it just breaks my heart. He needs one-on-one help so badly, and no one will give it to him. He is a fourth grader, the age of a fifth grader, and I wish he were spending a reading hour each day with the special ed teacher. That is what he needs, but she seems to have no plans to work with him at all.

Meanwhile, Alan, my friends and family are all being so supportive, and I’m thankful.

Most of all, I’m thankful for the prayers that you and others were saying for me. Let me tell you, God was all over my class today–all over. I have never felt such sincere gratitude towards my Heavenly Father as I do today.

And to you, Alan. Your phone call last night was on my mind all day long. You are just like one of my angels, no matter how far away you may be. I love you so much.

But it’s 10:50 pm, so I HAVE to get to bed. I love you!

Your silly wife,

April

 

I had little time to spend with my Army Wife pals during this phase, but Sarah would often show up in my classroom after school and help me get everything ready for the next day. I don’t know what I would have done without her!!

That First Week

It seemed like I couldn’t get anything right that first week. I had about three boys who were so unruly, I did not know how to keep them under control. All day I felt like I was having miniature heart attacks. I would get all worked up, my heart would pound wildly, and I’d have these adrenaline surges, but there was nothing I could do with all that energy, which left me just wanting to scream.

This was probably the beginning of my heart problem, but I did not know that then, so life without beta blockers went on..

There were two AmeriCorps workers put in my classroom to observe, or maybe to help, but I had no clue as to how to utilize their help because I was only figuring things out myself. AmeriCorps is an organization much like Peace Corps, only they work here in the U.S.

The sweet AmeriCorps lady, probably in her late 30s, reassured me day after day.

“I feel so bad for you. I know you’re struggling, but you are so nice to them. They need this. Many of them don’t have anyone like you, who is sweet to them. Don’t be discouraged.”

That was true, and it should have been encouraging, but instead I felt like I was drowning in this job. I only had the AmeriCorps workers that first week. After that, they moved on to help in the high school.

There was no planning period, so I was with the children all day long. They didn’t even leave the classroom for lunch. Trays were brought to them, and they ate at their desks.

Alan had been right when he’d said I had not actually spent much time with children.

I enjoyed reading to them and even teaching wasn’t bad, but keeping order felt impossible.

From the very beginning, every single day was a countdown until summer and freedom from this misery. Why had I ever thought I wanted to teach???

Each night I’d stay at school until 6:45 or so, trying to get caught up. Then when the weekend came, I still needed to grade papers and work on lesson plans.

That first week my washing machine also quit working and flooded my kitchen completely. With my work schedule, it took me 14 hours to get it completely cleaned up.

Are there really people who love teaching? I wondered.

I was literally a square peg trying to shove myself into a round hole.

But it was only the first week. Surely things would improve, right?

When it rains, it pours.

My teacher gig did not improve much as the weeks went by. The toothless wonder turned out to not be too big of a problem since half the time she didn’t even bother to send her children to school. Naturally, their grades were suffering.

Another parent kept grilling me with questions about “the curriculum”. Gracious, I barely even knew what curriculum meant. I was making up my lesson plans as I went, which is definitely not what I figured I should tell her…This was my student teaching year! Only because Texas had a teacher shortage, I was a student teacher with no overseer, other than the assistant principal.

The Second Week

The second week of school, Mrs. Brown started sitting with my class during lunch. I was so ecstatic for this 30 minute break from the classroom!! I practically leaped into my Grand Am and sped off to the Dairy Queen for a cheeseburger, feeling like a convict being let out of prison.

Meanwhile, the phone calls from Iraq slid to a screeching halt. Casualty rates were rising, and something was going on with the phones. Almost every time Alan tried to call me, he was cut off after “Hello.” It was heart-breaking.

My neighbor, Shelby, must have been going through something too because she was screaming and cussing people out on the phone even more than usual, so I got to go to bed to the sound of that coming through my paper-thin master bedroom wall each night.

I rarely had any time to spend with my friends anymore. It felt like the lights had gone out on me, and I was suffocating and losing 5 pounds/week, when I was already considered “underweight.”

When you find a job that is your calling in life, or you’ve always known it was something you wanted to do, or you have a knack for it and enjoy the challenge, I think you are better able to handle the negatives of that job. Part of my problem was that I had no true desire to even be a teacher. I knew going into this that trying to control other people stresses me out. Managing people is not my gift.

The truth was that I never actually wanted this career in the first place.

Teaching doesn’t bother me, it’s the crowd control that was killing me, but that’s a big part of being a successful classroom teacher. I wrestled with this in my heart. I hated my job and missed my husband so much, but I had no idea what to do about it.

 

Come back next week to see how I handled this!

Click here to read last week’s chapter of this story.

 

 

 

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Life After Home School and the Move

 

Life after home school

Tomorrow is Daniel’s very first day of kindergarten. To me he still looks like this:

How can I send this sweet Bama boy to kindergarten??

But, believe it or not, the Dan Man is 5, and he is extremely excited about going to school with his brothers. They will all be at the same school together. I had planned it differently, but at the last minute Daniel was awarded a scholarship, so that worked out beautifully.

It’s hard to even focus on how much is happening. Our heads are still spinning. In June, we trekked across the U.S. of A. In July, we hurriedly unpacked. (So now I need to go back and re-organize everything.) Then we headed off to one vacation after another. We did Disney. We saw friends. We went to Destin. We visited family.

I feel as though all along, our life keeps improving more and more. Happy things keep happening to us, and I’ve been so much in recovery from the dismal beginning of 2016 that it’s taken me awhile for this new thing to set in to my head.

I’m not stressed anymore! Wait. I don’t have to make lesson plans? Nope.

I don’t have to do any teacher training? Nope.

I don’t have to even feed everyone lunch? Nope.

I can be at my parents’ house in two hours? Yep!

The big boys are already in school, and they LIKE it??  Yes!!!

They actually like their new school a LOT!!!

I keep thinking about those Christian song lyrics, “He set my feet upon a rock.” Of course, that is also in the Bible, but it’s so much easier to pop in my head when it’s set to music. In my head that’s me. I was sinking in my misery, and I have been lifted and set upon a rock. Amen. Amen. Amen.

I think we’re on the verge of loving it here. I made my schedule for tomorrow, and it doesn’t sound hard! I didn’t even have to color-code it!! 

Praise the Lord, y’all! I have found relief!!! Now we just need to make a friend or two, and we’ll be all set.

We aren’t off to a great start on the makin’ friends bit. First off, we’ve lived here over a month and we’ve been out of town for most of that.

Secondly, we have a son whose Southern accent impersonation is down right hilarious. I only hope the locals will think so, instead of feeling like they’re being made fun of. I haven’t heard him do it in public though, so we should be good. (Ask Joshua to talk Southern next time you see it. You will laugh!!)

Then there was the doctor’s office incident. Alan took all four boys to the doc on a Saturday by himself. (I was out of town again.) We just needed to get school and sports forms filled out. Moving is such a pain when it comes to health care!!! (That’s another reason our company should let us live places a little longer.)

Well, they were all there for HOURS, but everyone was well behaved, thankfully. But right at the end, the doctors refused to sign the sports forms for ALL the boys! Can you believe that!!??  And it was because of my heart problem! Ugh.  Way to go, Me!

Alan tried to convince them that the boys do not have it, and even I am fine. I could play sports even. (Not well, but I could do it.) He failed to convince Doc #1, so he asked to get a second opinion from one of the other docs there that day.

Doc #2 also denied us. We all have to go to a cardiologist before they will be cleared to play sports. Doctors totally freak out about the v-tach thing, but I’m telling you mine is benign. It’s monomorphic, non-sustained. I’m good.

So today we’re sitting in Sunday School, and Alan whispers, “That doctor that wouldn’t sign the boys’ sports physicals is right over there.” Yep. Doc #1 is in our Sunday School class.

No way.

Yes way.

We chatted with him after class. He didn’t budge any on the issue, but hopefully we are all on good terms. I’m sure he’s a very good doctor. It was just a little embarrassing.

Oh, yeah, that’s us. We’re just making friends all over the place.

life after home school

Won’t you be our friend??

I am seriously, for real, truly going to take a “1st day of Kindergarten” picture for Dan tomorrow. And a “3rd day” pic for J and C! I don’t know why I’ve had so much trouble remembering.

Have your kids/grandkids started back to school yet? Share with me in the comments!

Classical Conversations, Basketball, Busy Bags, and Other Mom Stuff

Caleb carved this shark in the coral reef onto foam board. Then he painted it and stamped it onto paper. This photo is of the foam board after using it to stamp the paper with the picture.

Caleb carved this shark in the coral reef on foam board. Then he painted it and stamped it onto paper. 

These are the kinds of fun things we get to do in Classical Conversations, our home school tutoring service and curriculum. Look closely at his picture to see if you can find the eel coming out of the coral. (Hint: middle-left, It’s a profile with an eye.)

Classical Conversations is a rigorous way to approach home schooling, but it is also fun. It has definitely raised the educational bar for us.

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If you felt like you were reading the blog of a pitiful, dying woman in January and February, then I have good news for you!

I’m feeling better!

Going gluten free was my first step towards wellness. Now I’m also doing this Purification 21 day cleanse, which I’ll tell you more about soon, and I’m feeling even better. I haven’t lost a single pound, though. Ah, well. Go figure.

Plenty of happy things have been happening lately in school and sports and life in general, and of course you know I’m here to share all that.

First, let’s talk about home school.

I’m well aware that I have not been much of a home school blogger this year, so let me show ya a tad bit of what we’ve been up to lately without upsetting my big boys with over-share, of course…

home schooling with classical conversations

because sitting down is overrated, apparently

home school with classical conversations

Voluntarily reading the Bible! This kid knows how to make his momma smile!!

home school with CC

With our CC curriculum, the boys learn 5 new geographical locations to map out every week, which we practice everyday.

Last year we mostly traced a dry erase map, but actually drawing out the map locations every day has helped them learn it better. This particular map went along with our history lesson on the advanced (native) civilizations of Mesoamerica.

preschool homeschool

Dan and JD aren’t in CC yet. They are sorting colors and letters in their egg crates. (Thank you, Amy!)

The boys have an aunt who is crafty and extremely teacher oriented. She makes these off-the-chain busy bags, and THEN she ever so kindly shares them with us!! So exciting! She puts these kits together, complete with instructions and personalized details, and sends them to us in the mail!

Thank you, Amy!!!

homeschool with CC

We’re memorizing all of the helping verbs as well as all of the prepositions this year in grammar for CC.

home school with classical conversations

See! They do sit and work sometimes!

home school with classical conversations

Super proud mom moment. I took the boys to the park, and Caleb brought along a book to read. It was one of those unusually perfect days, in which the boys played and shared and helped each other out so perfectly (In public!!!) that I got to look like Mom of the year. Thank you, boys.

 

home school with classical conversations

We’re in earth science for this part of Cycle 1. (I liked life science better, but it all must be covered.)

home school with classical conversations

I got especially excited about this one because he beat the timer.

home school with classical conversations

This is another one of Amy’s incredible busy bags. Um, hello? They even have our pictures on them, and of course, they are laminated.

No, she doesn’t sell them, but if she ever decides to open shop, you can bet I will sell them for her right here.

But you know we are not just academic here. Allow me to share this winter’s big passion:

home school with classical conversations

Yes. This is my basketball necklace.

Basketball!!!

Did you know that Alan coached a team this year, a team that both Joshua and Caleb got to play on? And did you also know that we won almost all of our games?

home school with classical conversations

That’s Joshua with the ball.

Most importantly, both boys had a blast, made new friends, learned a great deal about basketball and how to play it, got tons of exercise, and grew in confidence!! (I was most excited about that last part!)

Joshua, passing to Caleb

Joshua scored so many times, and Caleb made a few baskets as well. They were both energized and highly involved, and it was such a pleasure to watch them play.

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Caleb, keeping it high

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Coach Dads

Alan is that unusually experienced and exciting coach that every parent or kid would want to have, unless having snack is important to you. Alan’s stance on snack: “If someone wants to organize snacks, that’s fine. I’m not going to, but feel free.” And you know what? No one did, and I don’t think anyone missed snacks.  Fun season!

 

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Of course, now it’s time to move on to baseball, but don’t worry. I already have two baseball charms ready for my necklace and my bracelet.

 

Hope everyone has a fabulous week, whether we like the election results or not!

When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.” C. S. Lewis

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